Punky pop-rock duo Tegan & Sara love each other, but the identical twins had to move to opposite ends of their native Canada to be able to stand one another.
“When we’re touring, we’re with each other a lot,” Tegan said. “When we’re on the road 24 hours a day, it can be a bit much. So space is good.”
“What she’s trying to say is that we see each other more than enough even when we’re living on different coasts,” said Sara, the younger by all of eight minutes. She moved to Montreal in the last year, while her sister remains on Canada’s west coast in Vancouver.
And though the 24-year-old twins spend their share of time apart, they reconvened last spring to record their third record and follow-up to If It Was You.
Released in September, So Jealous is the culmination of all the potential and promise Tegan & Sara have shown in the past, melding their emo tendencies with their blossoming pop sophistication. So global pop domination is just around the corner, right?
“We don’t want to be like U2 or whatever,” Sara said. “We don’t need to achieve that kind of success. We’re still working on that middle ground.”
They might not have the most gigantic following, but the core is intense and deeply enamored of the duo’s affecting pop songs. The list of name musicians who consider themselves ardent fans is long. Chrissie Hynde and Ryan Adams have both handpicked them for opening slots on their tours. Neil Young gave them their start (see “Tegan & Sara: Just Don’t Mention The Name ‘T.A.T.U.’ “) and recently asked them to play his Bridge School Benefit concerts next to veterans like Pearl Jam and Sonic Youth. Additionally, the Canadian west coast indie-rock community — including the twins’ rhythm section, New Pornographers producers John Collins and David Carswell — has taken the duo under its wing.
Like their previous offering, So Jealous is replete with pop anthems and emoesque manifestos on love and its aftermath. Living on separate coasts helped focus the vision.
“With our last album, we forced ourselves to record three to four days a week together,” Tegan said. “So [writing apart] was less pressure. It allowed us to be a little bit more diverse on the record and gave it a new fresh sound because we weren’t exhausted and hating each other.”
Lending his services to the project was another admirer of the group, former Weezer bassist Matt Sharp, whose ghostly yet understated keyboards leave a significant imprint on the record.
“[Matt] originally was supposed to play on a couple songs,” Sara said. “But he pretty much ended up playing on every song. I get nervous when I collaborate with people, but he was so shy, and he wanted to really complement what we were doing and also for us to approve. He …”
“He was so thoughtful of our process,” Tegan said, finishing her sister’s sentence.
While So Jealous is full of love songs, the siblings — both lesbians — insist their lovelorn lyrics are universal. “Everyone can relate to [songs about] the politics of love and heartbreak and longing,” said Tegan.
They recognize the trappings of being open, even if they downplay their sexuality.
“I don’t know [if] love is necessarily political,” Sara said. “But in this day and age, being open [and] comfortable with who you are can be political. Exercising our right to say and do what we want can be political just in itself.”
The album’s first single, “Walking With a Ghost,” was written by Sara about her initial experiences of living in a new city without the comfort of friends or lovers. “It’s kind of a cheesy metaphor for walking around the city feeling like the person I wanted to date was hanging out with me, but they weren’t. Some would call it an imaginary friend; I call it a ghost.”
The video is equally strange. Austere and spooky, it depicts the sisters as polarizing forces, dressed in either all-white or all-black. Tegan’s character rips Sara’s heart out, much to her dismay. The concept came to Sara after a wisdom tooth operation, when she was high on painkillers and had an “epiphany” about how she wanted the song to play out visually.
“I had to explain the [concept] to the record company,” Sara said. “You [convey] your [ideas] like ‘ripping hearts out’ and then ask for $30,000 for the video, and they’re like [terrified]. They didn’t really have a response beyond, ‘Uhhh, OK, I guess we’ll trust you.’ ”
Tegan & Sara tour dates, according to their publicist:
- 9/27 – Toronto, ON @ The Mod Club
- 9/28 – Ottawa, ON @ Barrymore’s
- 9/29 – Montreal, QC @ La Sala Rosa
- 10/13 – New York, NY @ Plaid
- 10/16 – New York, NY @ The Bowery Ballroom
- 10/17 – Northampton, MA @ Pearl Street
- 10/18 – Philadelphia, PA @ TLA
- 10/19 – Ithaca, NY @ The Haunt
- 10/20 – State College, PA @ TBA
- 10/21 – New York, NY @ The Bowery Ballroom
- 10/23 – Mountain View, CA @ Shoreline Amphitheatre (Neil Young Bridge School Benefit)
- 10/24 – Mountain View, CA @ Shoreline Amphitheatre (Neil Young Bridge School Benefit)